You will make out that apartheid was just some sort of evil mystical space disease that suddenly fell from the heavens and settled on all of us, had us all, black or white, in its thrall, until Mandela appeared from the ether to redeem us. You will try to make Mandela a Magic Negro and you will fail. You will say that Mandela stood above all for forgiveness whilst scuttling swiftly over the details of the perversity that he had the grace to forgive.
You will try to make out that apartheid was some horrid spontaneous historical aberration, and not the logical culmination of centuries of imperial arrogance. Yes, you will try that too. You will imply or audaciously state that its evils ended the day Mandela stepped out of jail. You will fold your hands and say the blacks have no-one to blame now but themselves.
Well, try hard as you like, and you’ll fail. Because Mandela was about politics and he was about race and he was about freedom and he was even about force, and he did what he felt he had to do and given the current economic inequality in South Africa he might even have died thinking he didn’t do nearly enough of it.
I’ll be 34 this year and we’re only beginning to see a change in the scenery when it comes to diversity and the fantastic. A recent UCLA study found that even though racial and gender diversity in television remains appallingly low, more diverse shows bring higher audiences while less diverse ones struggle. Meanwhile, some major networks may finally be getting the message. At this year’s annual Fox Broadcasting confab, titled “Seizing Opportunities,” the underlying theme was more diversity equals more money. Speaking to an invitation-only crowd of executives, producers, agents and media coalitions, Fox COO Joe Earley said this about welcoming more diverse shows: “Not only are you going to have more chances of a show being made here, more chances of a show being a success on TV, more chances of making it into syndication, more chances of a show selling globally and making you millions of dollars, but you are going to bring more viewers to our air and keep us in business.”
Cultural critics have rightly decried whitewashing in the name of social justice. Networks are now beginning to see dollar signs where they once imagined dearth. But beyond money and morality, diverse programming is also a question of quality. “Racist writing is a craft issue,” the poet Kwame Dawes said at this year’s AWP conference. “A racist stereotype is a cliché. It’s been done. Quite a bit. It’s a craft failure.”
Without an understanding of culture, power and history, diversity is useless; it’s blackface. And television has often given us nothing but that: cheap stand-ins and tokens to up their numbers and check off boxes.
The latest episode in Paul family’s saga with white supremacy comes from John Harwood, who interviewed Paul for NPR. When Harwood asked the senator about Jack Hunter, who co-authored Paul’s book and served on his staff before getting fired when his arguably racist views came to light, the senator bristled. Paul agreed that some (though he did not specify what) of what Hunter wrote was “stupid,” Paul mostly defended his former longtime aide. “He was unfairly treated by the media, and he was put up as target practice for people to say he was a racist, and none of that’s true,” the senator said. “None of it was racist.”
To refresh, Hunter was, until way, way back in 2012, a radio shock jock and conservative writer who called himself “the Southern Avenger” and wore a Confederate flag luchador mask. Hunter praised the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, decried Hispanic immigration, and warned that “a non-white majority America would simply cease to be America,” among many, many other things.
In a speech that built on the progressive agenda laid out by his second inauguration, President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address touched on a wide range of issues: he called for the minimum wage to be increased to $9 an hour; he continued asking lawmakers for immigration reform. And in the clip above, he invoked the memory of Hadiya Pendleton as part of an appeal for gun safety legislation:
She was 15 years old. She loved Fig Newtons and lip gloss. She was a majorette. She was so good to her friends, they all thought they were her best friend. Just three weeks ago, she was here, in Washington, with her classmates, performing for her country at my inauguration. And a week later, she was shot and killed in a Chicago park after school, just a mile away from my house.
Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, are in this chamber tonight, along with more than two dozen Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence. They deserve a vote. Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party turned to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL)–himself at the center of the party’s own push to court Latino voters–to deliver the response. And this happened.
Your thoughts on this year’s latest bout of political theater, Racializens?
By Guest Contributor Scot Nakagawa, cross-posted from Race Files
Since the beginning of 2011, conservatives have rolled out a broad wave of voter suppression efforts ranging from imposing voter ID requirements and blocking early voting, to the intimidation tactics of groups like True the Vote. Not surprisingly, these efforts to place road blocks–including what amount to poll taxes–between eligible voters and the ballot box are targeted primarily at young people and people of color, the groups that helped make up the margin of victory for Barack Obama in 2008.
One reason to keep an eye on the new Actually … politcal super PAC: diversity is in the mix from the get-go. The campaign, designed to pierce Republican arguments, features Rosie Perez, W. Kamau Bell and Jay Smooth in its introductory clip. And the first full clip to go live has Perez tackling Romney’s “jokes” about Latinos head on:
I know, I know…it’s too easy. But we haven’t seen P-Ry pull one of these maneuvers. Until now.
Here’s a transcript of his statements:
We have good strong gun laws. We have to make sure we enforce our laws. We have lots of laws that aren’t being properly enforced. We need to make sure we enforce these laws, but the best thing to help prevent violent crime in the inner cities is to bring opportunity to the inner cities, is to help people get out of poverty in the inner cities, is to help teach people good discipline, good character, that is civil society.
Ryan’s assessment of “inner city” people is of a piece with the not-at-all subtle and even out-and-proud overt) attitudes of the leading lights in the Republican Party, best exemplified by racism decoder-ring Newt Gingrich, who helpfully singled out black people as the “Food Stamp-satisfied” people we already knew they were talking about, and who echoed Ryan’s chatter about the low character of the inner city denizens who “have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works. So they literally have no habit of showing up on Monday. They have no habit of staying all day. They have no habit of ‘I do this and you give me cash,’ unless it’s illegal.”
So, anybody else need convincing to register to vote?
While the Mitt Romney campaign is regrouping in the wake of the infamous “47 percent” video circulated by Mother Jones earlier this week, it’s interesting to note that his infamous remarks came out not long after he tried yet again to connect with members of the Latino community, a demographic in which he–and the GOP along with him–still can’t win over. Continue reading →